Premier League fixtures rarely dish up drab affairs, but it’s hard to go past the two obvious picks of the round for EPL Matchday Six. It’s derby day in Liverpool and London, with Liverpool hosting Everton and Tottenham making the short trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal. Will Everton finally break their Anfield curse? Can Tottenham get one over their North London neighbours? Adam Dow takes a look at the matches ahead.
LIVERPOOL v EVERTON (Saturday, 9:45pm AEST)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
The clash that was originally known as the ‘friendly derby’ due to Liverpool and Everton fans often seen sitting next to each other in the stands, but it’s now the fixture that has the highest amount of red cards of all matches.
Today marks 15 years to the day since Everton last defeated Liverpool at Anfield, in a 1-0 win thanks to a Kevin Campbell strike.
Liverpool have certainly had the wood over Everton in recent years though, with the Blues’ last victory coming in 2010-11, when the Reds were under ‘Woy’ Hodgson, so no big surprises there.
The red half of Merseyside have missed Daniel Sturridge’s dynamic movement up top, who could make the bench. Glen Johnson is still unavailable and midfield workhorse Jordan Henderson is also in doubt with a hip injury, as is Brazilian Philippe Coutinho.
Raheem Sterling’s 120-minute performance midweek against Middlesbrough definitely raises question marks over his fitness.
Brendan Rodgers might just start the little magician though and try to finish Everton off early; they blew them off the park in the first half last season at Anfield in a 4-0 win and the Northern Irishman’s side had a penchant for scoring early goals in 2013-14.
Check out Adam Dow and Mark Houston’s in-depth discussion on the Merseyside Derby here.
Everton, meanwhile, have a number of injury concerns, with Seamus Coleman in doubt with a head injury and Steven Pienaar unlikely to be available. Ross Barkley is not expected back for at least three weeks.
In truth, it’s been an awful start to the season for both sides. Liverpool have lost 3 of their opening 5 matches, and Everton have a point less, boasting the worst defence in the league.
The Toffees were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Swansea in Wales on Tuesday, and they arguably are in worse shape than Liverpool.
Form counts little in derby matches though, and you get the sense that this one is going to be really special.
ARSENAL v TOTTENHAM (Sunday, 2:30am AEST)
Referee: Michael Oliver
The North London derby is always a pleasing fixture, even to the neutral.
Maybe this is more to do with hoping Adebayor takes part in a ridiculous goal celebration or perhaps an awful two-footed lunge, but both sides play aesthetically pleasing football, with attack a priority.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino issued a war-like prematch message, saying: “I enjoy the danger of derbies. I am stronger in hostile situations. I like them.”
An interesting choice of words from the Argentine, but I don’t think it’s going to help Spurs.
They’ve had a really indifferent start to the season, with a late win against rivals West Ham and a 4-0 walloping of QPR having their fans in dreamland.
However, they’ve had another home demolition from Liverpool to contend with, and dropped points late at Sunderland.
Last week’s 1-0 loss to West Brom was an awful, awful display, one they barely looked like scoring in.
Pochettino has fantastic ideas on how he wants the game to be played, but the players in the side were brought in by others and he’s struggling to adapt his high pressing game we saw at Southampton to his personnel at Tottenham – remember that, AVB?
Arsenal, meanwhile, remain unbeaten and destroyed a depleted Aston Villa side in the Midlands at the weekend, and Danny Welbeck’s first goal, combined with the return to form of Mezut Özil, should provide Arsene Wenger with some comfort ahead of this big match.
Özil was outstanding in behind Welbeck at Villa Park, and Wenger will continue to play the German in his preferred position, rather than out on the wing. The Frenchman has big problems at the back though, as Kieran Gibbs and Per Mertesacker are in doubt.
Wenger could turn to Hector Bellerin again to form part of a makeshift Gunners defence, with Chambers shifting to the centre half if Mertesacker is ruled out.
This fixture is a great chance for Tottenham to turn around their early season form, but Arsenal will be looking to push closer to Chelsea in the race for the title and I can’t see the Gunners dropping any points here.
Elsewhere, Chelsea host third-placed Aston Villa, and the Midlands side will be joint leaders if they take all three points at Stamford Bridge. The Blues, meanwhile, are coming off the back of a gritty draw at Manchester City but should have plenty of the ball (if Jose lets them).
Crystal Palace are at home to Leicester City in South London, and the Eagles are flying high after their 3-2 victory at Goodison over Everton. The Foxes, meanwhile, came back from 3-1 down to beat Manchester United 5-3 at the KP Stadium last weekend, so their confidence will be through the roof. Could be a really exciting one at Selhurst Park.
Hull City threw away a two goal lead against Newcastle in their last match and won’t be able to afford the same defensive lapses against a rampant Manchester City, who destroyed Sheffield Wednesday 7-0 midweek in the League Cup. City are five points off leaders Chelsea though, and can’t afford a slip up at the KC Stadium.
Louis van Gaal will be hoping for an improved defensive display against West Ham, but his Manchester United side is depleted at the back. Van Gaal said midweek that he would only have one central defender fit for the match against the Hammers, who are coming off the back of a 3-1 home victory against Liverpool. Old Trafford is a different proposition though, and Big Sam has already come out and said that he’d take a point.
Second-placed Southampton are just three points behind leaders Chelsea and scored late to defeat Swansea at the weekend. They host QPR at St Mary’s and Harry Redknapp’s men will be buoyed by their late equaliser at home against Stoke last week, but their away form has been awful so far this year.
Sunderland fought out a goalless draw against Burnley at the weekend but defeated Stoke City midweek in the League Cup, and they’ve drawn four of their five matches this season to sit outside the relegation places on goal difference. The Black Cats host Swansea, who won their opening three games but have now lost two on the trot.
West Bromwich Albion are at home to Burnley, who have gained a point in each of their last three matches with tidy defensive performances. The Baggies earned their first victory against Tottenham in London last weekend though, and manager Alan Irvine will be expecting all three points at the Hawthorns.
Finally, Stoke City are home at the Britannia to Newcastle, and Magpies manager Alan Pardew is still under immense pressure to keep his job despite engineering a two goal comeback at home against Hull. Newcastle did win in extra time against Crystal Palace in the League Cup though, and the fans appear to have backed down from their promises of mass protests. Stoke have had a mixed start to the season, and Mark Hughes will be hoping his side gets back in gear on Tuesday.